by Kellen Squire
When I embarked on my run for the House of Delegates here in central Virginia this January, I knew I’d have a tough go of it. I’d be running in the Trump Winery’s district, against a career politician who had the biggest warchest of any incumbent Republican, and was so close to the Trumps he was listed atop their campaign leadership team, and was invited to spend election eve with Ivanka in Northern Virginia.
Those were daunting things to face, but all were things I could plan for. Prepare for. Anticipate.
What I couldn’t expect, prepare for, or anticipate was frickin’ NAZIS. Nazis! That one’s not in the instruction manual, folks. Our campaign has been derailed by, affected by, and even attacked and threatened by real-life, swastika-wearing Nazis on more than one occasion! That’s just NUTS.
I’ve had the Pepe/Alt-right crowd try to threaten and intimidate us, going so far as to call me and read aloud the name of my daughter, as well as her age, grade, and the name of her school. We had to cancel our big Day of Action Kickoff on August 12th; I worked in the emergency department that day instead, which was real fun. And the Nazis haven’t left us alone, either, as they continue to come back again and again. During their last visit, they held their post-intimidation celebration at a gas station north of Charlottesville where one of our large campaign signs resides… and then we discovered the next morning that it had been ripped down during the night.
That’s all been bad enough. Yesterday, though…
We got notified through Twitter yesterday that Charlottesville schools had been placed on lockdown. The local police and FBI had become aware of an internet poster, supposedly on a site like r/the_donald, who had referenced being displeased with the events in Charlottesville, and then expressed admiration for the recent events in Las Vegas. It concerned them enough to lockdown all the schools in the city proper; some of the northernmost schools, like the one my daughter attends, didn’t go on full lockdown, instead beefing up their police presence dramatically (when I picked my daughter up, three police cruisers were stationed on grounds or nearby).
It’s unsettling. We’re already getting numb in our community to this sort-of thing… I can feel it. Because the feeling is there, like- we know this is just going to keep happening. They picked our community to make their “stand” in, because of how vibrant, diverse, and successful we are. We were targeted because of it, and I don’t anticipate them standing down or leaving until they’ve broken our spirit… or until we break them by showing them we won’t be cowed, or change our community because of them.
This is one reason why it’s so important to break the stranglehold Republicans have on the Charlottesville area; three of the four state legislative districts that the Charlottesville community was split up into (thanks, Ed Gillespie and Operation Redmap!) have Republican incumbents. The districts they gerrymandered themselves into are so safe that my opponent thought nothing of sitting silently through a meeting of the Greene County Republican Party where Jason Kessler, the orchestrator of the events of August 12th, was unanimously admitted a member. When you’ve drawn a district so radically you’ve got no fear of losing, then why would you care about standing up to a real-life Nazi? Until we make a positive change in those districts, those things will never get better.
My daughter is pretty sharp; she immediately noticed the police presence, and wondered aloud about it.
Now, right here, I had a choice to make. I could probably ignore her inquiry, which was more an observation than anything else; I could change the subject and move on. But she’s not in kindergarten anymore; she’s a tween. She could hear something on the news, or from one of her classmates the next day at school, and then I’d be ceding the opportunity to discuss it with her to someone else.
Much in the same vein as not expecting I’d spend more time fighting Nazis than Republicans during my campaign, I never thought I’d have to explain to my daughter why someone would threaten to murder or shoot hundreds of elementary school students because the Charlottesville community wanted to take down a monument to Jim Crow, or because people are threatened by how safe and successful a diverse community can be.
“Well, sweetie,” I said, “it sounds like some of the same people who were here in August are angry that we have been healing and doing better. Someone wrote something on the internet and made it sound like they were going to hurt people again. It was probably just someone being dumb on the Internet, but we all love you guys too much to take a chance on it, so the police came just to make sure everyone would be okay.”
Give my little girl credit for seeing through my dance around the subject, though- she would make a good investigative reporter, getting answers out of a politician- because she thought about this for a moment and a lightbulb went on in her head. “They wanted to hurt students?!” she asked, incredulously.
“Yes,” I said, “that’s what they wrote.” My daughter’s face screwed up in disbelief as I continued. “Like I said, most times that people write stuff like that, they’re just being jerks. But we don’t want to take a chance. We love you guys too much to do that.”
Silence reigned as we drove down the road, oppressive in how loud it was.
Finally- heartbreakingly- she responded. “But we’re just kids,” she said, her voice tinged with sadness. “We didn’t do anything.”
Years of being in the ER and Pediatric Acute & Intensive care were the only thing that enabled me to hold back my own tears. But it was a damn close thing.
“I know, honey,” I said. “I know. I don’t know why people are like that. I don’t know why anyone would even say they wanted to do such a hateful, evil thing. But that’s why we work so hard to keep you safe- all of your teachers and principal, the police, and your mom, stepmom, and I. Because you’re so important to us, and we love you.”
Silence again, then: “What did grandma and grandpa tell you when you were in school?”
They didn’t tell me anything, because we didn’t have to deal with this ****ing bull****, I thought angrily, but didn’t say aloud.
We talked for a good ten or fifteen minutes, almost the entire ride home. I made sure she knew she could talk to any of the adults in her life- her mom, her stepmom, me, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, principal, etc- if she had questions, concerns, or didn’t feel safe. We talked about how the office at her school was set up to keep her and her classmates safe. We talked about the “lockdown drills” they have regularly now; something we’ve discussed before, as I spent three years as a school nurse at an elementary school in the same school district, but now that she was old enough to understand the “why” a bit more, we went over it all again.
As we drove down the broken rural road leading to our house, curving up, down, and through the hollers and hills of our rural central Virginia community, my daughter said, matter of factly, “I hope nothing ever happens.”
“Yeah,” I said, my voice cracking. “Me, too, baby.”
This is one of the unseen sacrifices my colleagues and I who are running for the House of Delegates here in central Virginia are making. Because instead of playing with my daughter, with her two brothers, taking our minds off the events of the day, I had to leave not long after we got home. There were two campaign events going on that afternoon and evening in Greene and Albemarle counties, and the pile of work there is to do never gets any smaller, less than a month out from election day. So much to do, and so little time to do it in.
But it’s important. So important. The future of our Republic is resting on the hard work we’re doing, and the consequences of failure are pretty dire- especially if we come close and miss our mark. Because elected Republicans won’t stand up to Donald Trump, or the environment he’s bred and nurtured- and my constant fear is that they’ll pull out all the stops, regardless of the damage it’ll do to our Republic and civil liberties, if they see the writing on the wall.
That’s why I need your help- me, here in the Trump Winery district, but all of my colleagues across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Like Angela Lynn and Tracy Carver here in the Charlottesville area districts gerrymandered to keep Cville silent. Rural Democrats striving against all odds like Steve McBride, Jamaal Johnston, Djuna Osborne, Ben Hixon, and Flo Kettner. Suburban Democrats working their butts off like Michael Wade, Joshua Cole, and Brent Finnegan. Urban folks like my good friend Lee Carter, who championed and organized our push for single payer, or dynamic candidates like Elizabeth Guzman, and Kelly Fowler.
We’ve got a real chance to take back the House here in Virginia, and be the tip of the spear in the fight back against Trumpism. And it’s been the grassroots power from the Netroots that have given us a shot to do exactly that. We need everyone here to step up and chip in, whatever you can- our campaign here in the 58th District has been built on now over 2,000 unique donors, giving $10, $27, $58 dollars at a time. On the literally dozens of volunteers and field staff that has given us a more robust campaign presence than any other campaign, including the statewide ones, in central Virginia.
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 58th District this fall. Donate to, volunteer for, or get the word out about our people-powered campaign, today!